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Famed rhododendrons close, but not blooming

The buds are close to blooming, but not quite ready to go.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

There’s a very famous short story by Ray Bradbury called “All Summer in a Day” that’s widely touted as one of the saddest things ever written. Basically, the story is about a little girl who lives on Venus, where it rains constantly and the sun only comes out for one hour, every seven years. The little girl is obsessed with the idea of seeing the sun and writes a poem in class that says "I think the sun is a flower. That blooms for just one hour." The other kids in class hate her, so they mock her and lock her in a closet after she reads her poem. They forget all about her as they head outside to feel the sun’s warm rays, and only realize when they come back after the rain begins that she did not get to see the sun, and will have to wait for another seven years to see it. It’s a devastating read.

I was reminded of this story on the way out of the woods off Woodridge Road Sunday afternoon, because I had wanted to see the famed Medfield “great laurel” rhododendrons in bloom. Instead, I got bitten by a bunch of mosquitoes and only saw the buds.

I should have known that I was headed for disappointment when I was the only one trying to park at the church across from the trail. Medfield’s rhododendrons in 2020 might not exactly be Holland's tulips in 1635 (the height of “tulip mania”), but if they were in bloom, you would expect to see crowds gathering. Still, someone has to be the first to see them in bloom, so I figured why not me? I headed into the woods.  

Someone had hung fly traps to deal with the bug situation.

There are all sorts of signs telling you to stay on the trail, because you’re so close to - and sometimes on - private property. While that can be intimidating, it does have a welcome side effect. The trail is extremely well maintained, and the yellow markers showing you where to go are virtually everywhere. Other trails will have you wondering if you’re heading in the right direction until you hit a trail marker every ten yards or so, but this one has a marker on almost every third tree, likely because townspeople did not want people constantly stumbling into their backyards. Somebody is also trying to control the bugs. There are a couple of insect traps hanging from trees along the trail, which is appreciated, although they’re not especially successful.

A more natural form of insect control.

As for the rhododendrons, right now they don’t look like much. They’re just bushes with little buds on them, virtually indistinguishable from any other green bush. They are protected by a fence, but considering the gate isn’t locked, it seems like the fencing must be to keep animals away. After all, a quick internet search claims I could buy one of the plants, so I doubt they are in danger of a Susan Orlean-style orchid heist.

As of July 5th, the 'great laurels' are rather unspectacular.

Yes, I was disappointed. But considering the trail is around three quarters of a mile, I could go back whenever the flowers are in bloom, and I had never heard of the “great laurel” until about a week ago, I couldn’t really complain.

Plus, it’s not like a bunch of bullies locked me in a closet. I just walked in the woods about a week too early.

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